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DAY ONE: MYTHS AND LEGENDS
Part of what's appealing about Dublin is its accessibility and pleasant scale. Walk for 20 minutes and you can pretty much cross the entire city center. There's a unified harmony to the buildings, found in the splendid symmetry of dignified Georgian townhouses, as well as the grandiose pomp of such 18th-century landmarks as the Bank of Ireland and Trinity College.
Stroll through the grounds of Trinity College (College Green), the Alma Mater of Bram Stoker, Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde, stopping in to see the ninth-century Book of Kells. The college, established in 1592, manages to be simultaneously bustling and peaceful. Continue on to the Bank of Ireland, the former Houses of Parliament (2 College Green; +353-1-671-1488), for a peek in at the old House of Commons, now a banking hall, and then cross the Liffey at O'Connell Street. A pleasant boardwalk runs along the north bank of the river and it's only a couple of blocks' easy amble to Dublin's tiny, new Italian Quarter -- a short city block of slick apartments with wine bars and sidewalk tables at ground level. Cross the river, across the landmark Ha'penny Bridge, named for the old crossing toll and walk south to Grafton Street.
For lunch, sashay into Grafton Street's legendary Bewley's Oriental Caf? and head upstairs to Mackerel (78-79 Grafton St.; +353-1-672-7719; EUR15-27), the city's most inventive and satisfying seafood restaurant. After lunch, promenade the famed, pedestrian Grafton Street, very much affluent South Dublin's shopping destination. Call into Brown Thomas, the city's most upmarket department store. Local and international names star. For more cutting-edge fashions, cross the street to BT2, their younger, funkier offshoot.
For yet more interesting cuts, turn left from the main doors coming out of Brown Thomas and walk along Wicklow Street to South William Street. Powerscourt Townhouse Centre (15 South William St.; +353-1-671-7000) was built in 1774 as a town residence for Lord Powerscourt, but today houses chic galleries, sleek bars and restaurants and pricey boutiques, including Eden Park and Genius.
Sidle round the corner to dine under the generous ceilings of the always gay and lesbian-popular Market Bar (Fade Street; www.marketbar.ie or www.tapas.ie; +353-1-613-9094; small plates EUR5-12), top of the list for great gastro-pub food. The airy, converted factory serves Spanish and Tuscan fare in share-plate and solo-size portions. An exciting wine list stars, and the bar is hopping with an attractive, upscale crowd at all times.
Once you've finished feasting on tasty tapas and fine wines, you'll be just two minutes' walk away from your first blast of Dublin's refreshingly unruly gay nightlife. There's no denying that the Irish enjoy their fair share of liquid refreshment and nowhere is that more evident than in the cruisey and crowded rooms of The George (21 South Great George's St.; +353-1-478-2983), the grande dame of Dublin's gay bars. Every night of the week the late-night bar and club is wild and wildly entertaining.
Part One | Part Two | Part Three